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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Fue Lee (DFL)

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DFL lawmakers highlight proposals to help rebuild damaged, destroyed businesses

Thursday, March 4, 2021

SAINT PAUL, MN — Today, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, Representative Mohamud Noor, Representative Fue Lee, and members of the Minneapolis and St. Paul legislative delegations held a press conference to highlight proposals to help businesses rebuild and recover from last summer’s civil unrest, many of which are owned by Black, immigrant, and communities of color. A public hearing on the proposals is scheduled for Friday, March 5 at 1pm, in the House Workforce and Business Development Committee

The Providing Resources, Opportunity and Maximizing Investments in Striving Entrepreneurs (PROMISE) Act, which House lawmakers first approved on June 19, 2020, provides assistance for impacted community members, nonprofits, and business owners. The proposal includes $167 million in direct assistance to small businesses as well as $125 million to compensate individuals and businesses for uninsured property loss.

“Our community is still struggling to heal from the collective trauma of George Floyd’s murder, the civil unrest that followed, and the psychological upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL - Minneapolis), the bill’s chief author. “The PROMISE Act is a continued promise to support Black, Indigenous and Immigrant-owned businesses to build back better and stronger. Our job is to provide community members and impacted businesses with the resources necessary to recover and rebuild the culture and vibrancy of Minnesota.” 

In addition to the PROMISE Act, Representative Fue Lee (DFL - Minneapolis), chair of the Capital Investment Committee, discussed a separate proposal to authorize the use of redevelopment appropriation bonds for damaged and destroyed businesses.

“Last summer’s civil unrest completely devastated Black, Indigenous, and communities of color throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul. Small businesses, through no fault of their own, were left to pick up the literal pieces of the American dream they worked so hard to build,” said Rep. Lee. “The average insurance payout has fallen far short of what these businesses need to recover. This is an unprecedented and extraordinary situation, but it does come at a time when our state is experiencing low interest rates and a AAA bond rating - which are both economic measures that show Minnesota has the means to effectively use redevelopment appropriation bonds to deliver a lifeline to the cultural and economic heart of these communities. Minnesotans step up to help their neighbors, regardless of zip code, because that’s the right thing to do.”

Rep. Lee’s proposal would authorize the sale of $300 million in appropriation bonds to assist private businesses with physical infrastructure redevelopment needs from the damage sustained during last year’s civil unrest. $200 million would go to small businesses in Minneapolis, and $100 million for small businesses in St. Paul. While past forms of assistance are helping the impacted communities, too many small businesses have fallen through the cracks. Recent estimates show that there remains around $250 million in uninsured, infrastructure-related expenses for small businesses just along the Lake Street corridor in Minneapolis, not including publicly owned buildings or those owned by large corporations.

The PROMISE Act legislation would:

  • Create a special panel to review cases and provide direct compensation to impacted individuals.
  • Partner with cities and community organizations to create economic relief programs for impacted businesses and organizations.
  • Give local units of government flexibility and tools to prevent gentrification.
  • Direct the Minnesota Department of Commerce to assist business owners, and require insurance companies to notify the department of any rejected claims.
  • Help with the rising cost of leases for eligible residential and commercial properties.
  • Eliminate the sales tax on the purchase of construction materials used to rebuild damaged or destroyed properties. 
  • Provide property and sales tax cuts for eligible properties.
  • Establish a “Metropolitan Area Redevelopment Corporation” to create a long-term plan for equity-driven redevelopment and transformation.
  • Create a Civil Unrest Investigatory Commission to conduct a neutral investigation into the government’s response to the unrest, responsible for releasing a public report of its findings. 

“House Democrats approved a comprehensive rebuilding package for damaged and destroyed businesses at Lake, Broadway, and Midway on June 19, 2020,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL - Golden Valley). “Today marks the 258th day since Paul Gazelka and Senate Republicans have refused to lift a finger to help Minneapolis and St. Paul rebuild, which contribute significantly more tax revenue to rural Minnesota than they receive. What we’ve seen over the past 258 days is divisive, political cheap shots from Senate Republicans who enjoyed participating in photo opps when they toured damaged communities, but have provided nothing but lip service to the small businesses they claim to care so much about, which were built over generations by BIPOC and immigrant communities. Republicans seem more interested in cutting taxes for big corporations like Target that made record profits in the billions during the pandemic instead of helping people who’ve been hurt the most.”

More information on tomorrow’s hearing in the Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee, including how to testify, is available on the committee’s webpage. Minnesotans can watch live video or a recording of the hearing at 1pm on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel